The Good News in 60-second sermons
"The internet's favourite vicar", Ridley alumnus Chris Lee, talks about his global ministry through social media - the modern-day public square.
I trained at Ridley Hall from 2008 to 2011 and, frankly, I loved it.
I look back on my time there with great joy; croquet in the summer, punt trips to Grantchester (not into town like the tourists, of course), chapel mornings, court walks, the ‘Div Fac’ and lots more. I met my wife in lectures – church history, I believe. It was great.
Since then, I did a curacy, became a Vicar and have been referred to by many names – the Viral Vicar, the Internet’s Priest, Holly Willoughby called me ‘the internet’s favourite Vicar’. The reason for this is that I stumbled upon a global ministry through speaking the gospel on YouTube to over 350 million people and on Instagram to my 176 thousand followers (@revchris7).
A long story short, my brother-in-law started a YouTube channel, I went on it in my dog collar, spoke in a non-judgmental way about pop culture, and became popular. This led a lot of people to search me out online and find my Instagram account. I realised I had a great opportunity to speak the gospel to a lot of people, and I developed a thing called 60-second sermons, and things took off. I recently wrote a book called The OMG Effect for Penguin, sprinkling Christian teaching into a self-help world.
The average age of Church of England membership is 61, according to statistics for mission, with half the congregations in England having fewer then 5 members under 16. A whole generation is missing from church, and they are all online. The average time spent online daily by Gen Z is 4 hours; one study said 7 hours. They want quick and immediate access to information. They don’t really like asking for information, and they want to understand what is happening in a situation before they enter it. We as the Church need to be where they are, and be communicating clearly what the gospel is about and what we as the Church are doing. The Bible App has been downloaded 400 million times! That is amazing given 30 years ago people were smuggling it into countries and across borders. Now the Bible can be accessed by almost anyone in the world.
During the pandemic the world has been shaken, as has the Church. We are in the midst of working out what it means to be church again and shifts in thinking have taken place, from building and place of worship, to a connected body of gathered worshippers. Jesus calls us to be fishers of men. In order to fish you need nets, and you need boats. The boats take you to the fish and the nets catch them. We, perhaps, have been concentrating for too long on building nice boats and have neglected the nets. The online world is a huge fish tank and we need to work out how we fish there.
St Paul in Acts 17 goes to Athens and stands in front of the Areopagus and preaches about an unknown God. What I find fascinating is that, when verse 21 describes the area in front of the Areopagus, it reads,
21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
Is this not a perfect definition of social media?
Like Paul, we the Church need to stand in these places, where the nations gather and share their latest ideas, and preach the Good News! Let us be humble, but let us also be confident.
Watch a 60-second sermon
Click the image to watch Chris' 60-second instagram sermon on International Women's Day: